Heaven is not about religious beliefs, but about spiritual actions. It is not true, as some people believe, that we get to heaven by giving verbal assent to belief in God. It is love, not religious doctrines, that creates spiritual growth. Religions are cultural institutions but love is universal. Those religions which claim superiority over other religions or exclude people for various reasons, go against God’s law to love others as we love ourselves. Although religion, in itself, is not important to God, all religions are necessary because there are people who need what they teach. For this reason, all religions are precious in the sight of God. All religions refer to the same God. All religions are different ways of trying to describe the same God. After death, if you insist upon searching for an old man on a throne as God, you will do this for awhile until you get the idea that you are following an illusion. These insights into religion, and more, come from people who have experienced heaven through near-death experiences (NDEs) which you will discover in the article below.
Table of Contents
- Religion is not as important as many people believe
- Emanuel Swedenborg’s discourse on religion
- Love is the true “religion”
- Religions have an important purpose
- NDEs are the source of many religious concepts
- Some religious beliefs can be harmful
a. Harmful belief — soul sleep
b. Harmful belief — strict religious fundamentalism
c. Harmful belief — religious bigotry
d. Harmful belief — extremely faulty religious doctrines
e. Harmful belief — atheism (under certain conditions)
- Religious aftereffects resulting from NDEs
- Miscellaneous NDE and religion insights
- Spiritual concepts of religion
- The Bible in light of NDEs
1. Religion is not as important as many people believe
An example of the spiritual change that often takes place in near-death experiencers can be found Tom Harpur’s excellent documentary entitled Life After Death. In it, he profiles a minister named Ken Martin who had a near-death experience. Upon his return from his experience, he discovered that everything he had previously known – his ministry, his calling, everything – was insignificant in comparison to his experience with the afterlife.
“Doctrine and creed and race mean nothing. No matter what we believe we were all children joined under one God. The only rule is God’s true law: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (May Eulitt)
“God does not care which religion is best. God does not care what religion people practice. They are all a blooming facet of the whole. All religions refer to the same God.” (Mellen-Thomas Benedict)
“One man who had a near-death experience realized that the “God” of his religious background wasn’t anything like the reality. He learned that it doesn’t matter if people call him God, Allah, Great Spirit or whatever, he is one and the same.” (Dr. Liz Dale)
“Everyone, religious or not, believing in God or not, transitions to the spirit world as part of the natural process of life. Just as one does not need to be religious to live in the physical world, one does not need to profess a particular faith to live in the spirit world.” (Nora Spurgin)
“Heaven is about deeds, not creeds. Therefore, persons of many cultures and religions form the societies of heaven.” (Emanuel Swedenborg)
“Religious beliefs have little to do with what we experience in the transition from one realm to another, except that we are allowed to see briefly the teacher or guru that we followed. Regardless of cultural or religious beliefs, we have the same basic experience at death.” (Betty Bethards)
“God is not dependent on our belief, for our belief or disbelief in God does not affect God – only us.” (P.M.H. Atwater)
“God cares little about our religious affiliation or church membership. Love is not limited to any one religion or even religion at all. Religions are cultural institutions but love is universal.” (Kevin Williams)
Kenneth was born and raised a Southern Baptist. As a child, he first made his commitment to Christ and was baptized with water. He was a member of the church all his life. He was saved, on the path toward heaven, a believer, a follower of Jesus, and he knew this assured him a place in heaven. Nevertheless, he had an NDE and it sent him straight to hell. (Rev. Kenneth Hagin)
“God is not a member of any church or religion. It is the churches and the religions that are members within the vastness and the glory that is God. There is no one religion just as there is no chosen people or person, nor any single way of regarding what cannot be fully comprehended. We are all sons of God in the sense that we are all souls of God’s creation, without gender, without form, without nationality, complete and whole and perfect as we explore the never-endingness of God’s wonderment.” (P.M.H. Atwater)
“Having faith IN Christ doesn’t matter as much as having the faith OF Christ. It is foolish to think that Jesus will carry your cross for you because he taught people that they must take up their own cross. Having the faith of Christ means to practice unconditional love.” (Kevin Williams)
“There is a lot of solid evidence in the Bible itself that the Bible has serious and devastating errors in it.” (Kevin Williams)
2. Emanuel Swedenborg’s discourse on religion
Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was a renowned Swedish scientist and Christian mystic whose spiritual visions led to experiences which have remarkable similarities to the NDE. So remarkable are these similarities, that in Dr. Raymond Moody‘s ground-breaking book on NDEs, Life After Life, he devotes an entire section of his book to describe these similarities. Dr. Moody describes how Swedenborg described death as a pulling away from the physical body, followed by encounters with departed ones and a life review drawn from the person’s memory. Most notably, is his description of encountering a supreme Being of Light which Swedenborg described as “the Sun of heaven in which the Lord resided.” The following are just a few of Swedenborg’s insights about religion and the true path to attaining heaven according to Swedenborg’s most famous work Heaven and Hell which was translated into the book entitled Awaken From Death:
“Some people believe that it is hard to lead a heaven-bound life (which is called a spiritual life) because they have heard that a person needs to renounce the world, give up the appetites that are associated with the body and the flesh, and live like spiritual beings. They take this to mean nothing other than rejecting what is worldly – especially wealth and prestige – and walking around in constant devout meditation on God, salvation, and eternal life, passing their lives in prayer and in reading the Word and devotional literature. They think that this is renouncing the world and living by the spirit instead of by the flesh.
“But an abundance of experience and discussion with angels has enabled me to know that the situation is completely different from this. In fact, people who renounce the world and live by the spirit in this fashion build up a mournful life for themselves, one that is not receptive of heavenly joy; for everyone’s life on earth stays with them when they enter the spiritual realm. On the contrary, if people are to accept a life in heaven, they must by all means live in the world and become involved in its functions and dealings. Then through a moral and civic life they will receive a spiritual life. This is the only way a spiritual life can be formed in people and their spirit be prepared for heaven.
“Living an inward life and not an outward life at the same time is like living in a house with no foundation, which gradually settles, or develops cracks and gaps, or totters until it collapses.
“If we examine a person’s life with rational acuity, we discover that it is threefold: there is a spiritual life, a moral life, and a civic life; and we find these lives distinct from each other. There are people who live a civic life but not a moral or a spiritual one. Then there are people who live both a civic life and a moral life and a spiritual as well. These are the ones who are leading heaven’s life – the others are leading the world’s life separated from heaven’s life.
“A heaven-bound life is not a life withdrawn from the world but a life involved in the world. A life of piety without a life of love (which occurs only in this world) does not lead to heaven. Rather, it is a life of love, a life of behaving honestly and fairly in every task, every transaction, every work, and from a more inward source that leads to a heavenly one. This source is present in that life when a person behaves honestly and fairly because it is in keeping with divine laws. This life is not hard.” (Emanuel Swedenborg)
3. Love is the true “religion”
“I asked the light, which I call Christ, how people from other religions get to heaven. I was shown that the group, or organization, we profess alliance to is inconsequential. What is important is how we show our love for God by the way we treat each other. This is because when we pass to the spiritual realm we will all be met by him, which substantiates the passage, ‘No one comes to the Father, but by me.’ The light showed me that what is important is that we love God and each other, and that it isn’t what a person says, but the love in their being that is examined in the afterlife.” (Sandra Rogers)
“What is truly important is love, not religion.” (Beth Hammond)
“The best religion is the religion that brings you closest to God.” (Howard Storm)
“There are only two true religions – the religion of love and the religion of fear.” (Sandra Rogers)
“Your religion is where your love is.” (Henry David Thoreau)
How are we saved? By unselfish love. When we love unselfishly, our vibrations are so high that the only place we’ll fit into is heaven. There is no other place we can go if we want to. This is divine justice because it gives all the people who ever lived, as well as all the higher animals who know right from wrong, an equal chance to eventually attain internal harmony which will fit them into some kind of heaven – regardless of their intelligence, education, indoctrination, ignorance, wealth or poverty.” (Arthur Yensen)
“The central message that Buddhist near-death experiencers bring back from their journey is that the most important qualities in life are love and knowledge, compassion and wisdom.” (Lingza Chokyi)
“People who truly practice the religion of love will find themselves in a universal sphere where everyone understands that true religion is to love others as ourselves.” (Nora Spurgin)
“There is light that can be found in many, many other faiths. All faiths which stress love have this focus. All have their own paradise, but the devoted eventually learn the tremendous experience that all is one under God and that there is no division in purpose. There is one God of us all.” (Margaret Tweddell)
“Near-death accounts suggest that unconditional love is the highest form of religion there is.” (Kevin Williams)
“Jesus didn’t come to preach a new religion. Jesus was a Jew who preached unconditional love.” (Kevin Williams)
4. Religions have an important purpose
“I wanted to know why there were so many churches in the world. Why didn’t God give us only one church, one pure religion? The answer came to me with the purest of understanding. Each of us, I was told, is at a different level of spiritual development and understanding. Each person is therefore prepared for a different level of spiritual knowledge. Each church fulfills spiritual needs that perhaps others cannot fill. No one church can fulfill everybody’s needs at every level.” (Betty Eadie)
“The different religions just have different ways of explaining the same Creator.” (Dr. Liz Dale)
“God created differences in religion because of the different lessons we all need to learn.” (Sandra Rogers)
“All religions are necessary because there are people who need what they teach.” (Betty Eadie)
“Religions have a place and any one person in that religion is on the path of learning what is important for that soul.” (Darlene Holman)
“The most important thing is to really live what our religion teaches. Even if we have the greatest religion of all, it won’t do us any good if we don’t put it into practice in our lives. Whatever we practice becomes a part of us.” (Daniel Rosenblit)
“Religion is used as a stepping stone to further knowledge. As an individual raises his level of understanding about God and his own eternal progress, he might feel discontented with the teachings of his present church and seek a different philosophy or religion to fill that void. When this occurs he has reached another level of understanding and will long for further truth and knowledge, and for another opportunity to grow. And at every step of the way, these new opportunities to learn will be given.” (Betty Eadie)
“One does not have to be religious to dwell in the spirit world, but one inevitably will benefit from a thorough understanding and practice of a particular tradition.” (Nora Spurgin)
“We have no right to criticize any church or religion in any way. They are all precious in God’s sight. Very special people with important missions have been placed in all religions that they might touch others.” (Betty Eadie)
“It is possible for the uneducated and unbelieving spirit to be a virtual prisoner of this earth. Such spirits may not recognize the energy and light which draws one toward God. Lacking the faith and power to reach for the light, unenlightened spirits may actually stay on earth until they learn of the higher power which surrounds, and is available to them.” (Betty Eadie)
5. NDEs are the source of many religious concepts
a. NDE archetypal images: NDE archetypal images have been consistent throughout history. Jenny Yates describes how the phenomenology of the archetypal Being of Light in world myths and religions shows the archetypal parallels with the Light in the NDE that are consistent across time and cultures. Yates shows how the phenomenon of the Being of light of the NDE has parallels to:
- The light of God’s presence reflected in the shining face of Moses on the mountain.
- The light of the Shekinah in mystical Judaism.
- The transfiguration of Christ.
- The light of Sophia (Wisdom) in Christian Gnosticism.
- The union of the individual and the universal soul called Atman–Brahman in Hinduism.
- The clear light of enlightenment in Tibetan Buddhism.
b. NDEs correlate with Judaism: Jewish scholars have discovered contemporary NDEs in Israel and found parallels in the Talmud, Zoharic traditions, and later Rabbinic literature and folklore. The theme of judgment before a heavenly court is particularly prominent in the Jewish NDE tradition (Jonathan Neumann).
c. NDEs correlate with Buddhism: Carl Becker reports that Japanese Pure Land Buddhism is grounded upon the reality and accessibility of NDEs for all (1984 b.c). Becker also explores the strong parallels with the Tibetan Book of the Dead (1985). The Tibetan Buddhist leader Sogyal Rinpoche explores the parallels between NDEs and the classic Tibetan Book of the Dead in his article in this book.
d. NDEs correlate with Hinduism: The Hindu subtle body that leaves the body at death, Arvind Sharma shows, is analogous to the spiritual body described in Hindu NDEs. The flash of light experienced by the youthful guru Yogananda is an archetypal parallel to the NDE light. (Yogananda, 167).
e. NDEs correlate with Christianity: The New Testament describes Paul’s NDE because Paul is defending his authority as an apostle on it. John describes an NDE in the Book of Revelation. Some Christians consider NDEs to be very much like Biblical resurrections (Wilkerson). The Mormon faith is very open to NDEs because it already has a well-developed picture of the next world. Mormons who have reported NDEs are well-received in the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (Craig Lundahl, Arvin Gibson).
f. NDEs correlate with mysticism: NDEs have also been compared to mystical shamanic journeys (Dr. Kenneth Ring) and to Kundalini yoga’s mystical states (Dippong; Ring, 1984). Christian mystics such as Edgar Cayce and Emanuel Swedenborg describe having visionary experiences identical to NDEs. John Pennachio defines an NDE as a mystical state, since NDEs show congruence with Walter Pahnke‘s nine categories of a mystical experience:
- Intuitive unity (a sense of cosmic oneness)
- Transcendence of space and time
- A deeply felt positive mood
- A sense of sacredness
- A feeling of insight or illumination
- Transiency yet persisting positive changes in attitude and behavior (the experience passes)
- Persisting positive changes in attitudes and behavior
- David Lorimer interprets NDEs and the psychic experiences of NDE survivors as their participation in the immanent, divine presence described in the mystical literature of the Perennial Philosophy, from Plato‘s Being to Emerson‘s Oversoul. Judith Cressy shows a number of specific parallels between NDEs and mystics in the classical tradition, such as St. Theresa and John of the Cross. In her essay in this book, she encourages NDE survivors to seek supportive spiritual communities that can support their journey of integrating the Light into daily life.
a. Harmful belief — soul sleep
Throughout history, many Christians have believed in the idea of soul sleep. This is the repulsive doctrine that people sleep in their graves until the second coming of Christ at which time their corpses come alive and crawl out of their graves. Near-death experiences show that this doctrine is not only false, but is a very harmful doctrine to believe in. The following are NDE insights that show the dangers of believing in this doctrine:
“One of the places we observed seemed to be a receiving station. Beings would arrive here oftentimes in a deep hypnotic sleep. I call it hypnotic because I realized they had put themselves in this state by their beliefs. Here were what I would call angels working with them trying to arouse them and help them realize God is truly a God of the living and that they did not have to lie around sleeping until Gabriel or someone came along blowing on a horn.” (Dr. George Ritchie)
“Things change little in the hereafter. Suppose we have the fixed idea that we’ll sleep till the resurrection of the body. Then suppose there isn’t a resurrection of the body. We might sleep a very long time.” (Arthur Yensen)
“Those that died believing they would sleep until awakened by Gabriel, reported a black darkness, a feeling of being trapped and alone, stranded. What I’ve finally come to realize is we truly and most literally create our own realities. When we die, the reality we created is where we will live and what we will become.” (P.M.H. Atwater)
Betty Bethards has this to say about not believing in life after death: “You will probably be kept in a sleep state for the first two to three day period. You will wake up in a beautiful meadow or some other calm and peaceful place where you can reconcile the transition from the death state to the continuous life. You are given teachings in the hope that you do not refuse to believe that you are dead.” (Betty Bethards)
Ruth Montgomery has this to say about a person who does not believe in life after death: “He expects to find nothing when he passes through the door called death, and for a long time that is usually what he finds – nothing. He is in a state like unto death for a goodly while, until at last something arouses him.” (Ruth Montgomery)
b. Harmful belief — strict religious fundamentalism
“If we have no fixed beliefs about anything, we’d be free to adapt to the new surroundings and fit in where we belong with no unusual difficulty. Everything has its place. Fixed beliefs are useful in prayer where doubt is fatal. Yet doubt is always useful in sizing up religious dogma, reading junk mail, listening to commercials, and the promises of politicians.” (Arthur Yensen)
“Deeply held religious beliefs come into visible expression in the spirit realms, just as they do in the physical realm. We create our own experience. Eventually, restrictive minds slowly open and expand allowing them to accept greater understanding. Then they are ready to move from their limited concept of life to the eternal adventure, for there is ever more to know, to do, to be.” (Jan Price)
“Some people believe that to be a spiritual person, we must renounce the world, give up worldly things and read the Bible all the time. But people who live this way create a mournful life for themselves and one that is not receptive of heavenly joy. Everyone’s life on earth stays with them when they enter the afterlife. If people want to live a heavenly life, they must live a moral and civil life in the world. Living an inward life and not an outward life at the same time is like living in a house with no foundation which gradually develops cracks and collapses.” (Emanuel Swedenborg)
“The most difficult thing for a person who has been deeply steeped in a particular religious tradition is to realize that the form alone is not what elevates a person; it is the heart.” (Nora Spurgin)
“Some Christians enter the spirit world and are led into thoughts they had during their physical life about the soul’s state after death, heaven, and hell, until they come to resent their former utter ignorance of things like this, and resent the Church’s ignorance of such matters.” (Emanuel Swedenborg)
“Many people, when they come to the astral world, experience a great deal of turmoil and distress because they have been too positive and too dogmatic in their earthly lives and have tried to impose that dogmatism on other people. I think you can find, if you will think about it and look back at your own lives, that there are times when you wish you hadn’t been so forceful in persuading someone to do something. When one does this he is cutting across a divinely given attribute of each person, which is free will.” (Margaret Tweddell)
“After death, people do not keep their religious faith if it does not come from a heavenly love.” (Emanuel Swedenborg)
The following revelation from Ruth Montgomery is an example of a fundamentalist preacher’s death experience: “First, he is shocked to find that God is not sitting on a throne surrounded by angels. He may think this is only a brief interlude until he adjusts. He may begin to preach to people there who he believes are lost souls who lack the righteousness to advance to heaven. His sermons may attract some people. But he begins to demand that the older souls around there help him find the way to the throne of God. He may honestly believe that it is being concealed from him in some mysterious way. At last the old souls gather around and explain to him that he is preaching a false doctrine; that heaven is within each man, and so is his private hell; that he has arrived, and nothing is being hidden from him. It is up to him to begin work on his own spiritual advancement, and he is retarding the progress of others by misleading them with false hopes of a promised land. For this is the promised land, and we make of it what we will through our own endeavors.” (Ruth Montgomery)
“Some people believe we must be baptized to go to heaven. Some people believe we must speak in tongues. Some people believe we must accept Jesus as God or savior. Such people believe that religion is the way to heaven. But unless the religion we practice is unconditional love, then we are not following in Jesus’ footsteps.” (Kevin Williams)
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)
c. Harmful belief — religious bigotry
Many religious people have the erroneous and bigoted belief that only their religion is true and that all other religions are false. Such a belief has been the scourge of humanity and has been the source of the multitude of horrible religious wars and atrocities that have plagued humankind. The following are some NDE insights concerning this problem:
In the hell realms, there are souls who argue over some religious doctrine and try to kill those who do not agree with them. (Dr. George Ritchie)
“Those religions which claim some singular relationship with God, claim superiority over others, or exclude people for various reasons, go against God’s law that we love one another as we love ourselves.” (Sandra Rogers)
“God is not a member of any church or religion. It is the churches and the religions that are members within the vastness and the glory that is God. There is no one religion just as there is no chosen people or person, nor any single way of regarding what cannot be fully comprehended.” (P.M.H. Atwater)
“We are all different aspects of the same being who is not committed to one particular religion.” (Mellen-Thomas Benedict)
“Not all teachings described as religious are beneficial. Religion which is judgmental, prejudicial, critical, and narrow may impede the spirit’s natural growth. Where religion teaches love, there is growth. Where religion impedes love, there is stagnation.” (Nora Spurgin)
“Many religionists think they have the whole truth and the only short-cut to heaven. Some churches force their particular brand of God’s love on people who were perfectly satisfied and thought they were on good terms with God already. But even though the churches have abused religion, I believe everyone should have some kind of a religion, or philosophy, to encourage them to think and grow spiritually.” (Arthur Yensen)
“Despite what some people think, heaven is not limited only to Christians. Jesus reveals the way, the truth, and the life. However, unless we can give someone the true Christian experience of the Christ, it is not right for us to say to them, ‘You must not be a Buddhist -you must be a Christian.'” (Margaret Tweddell)
“Many faiths on earth do not include Christ but are loved and used by God nevertheless. Our Father never turns away a person who searches for him. He created our mortal conditions and knows perfectly what we face in sometimes godless circumstances. A person born to a home that does not recognize God is not cursed, but rather blessed with the needed opportunities of growth uniquely available in that home. Any person searching for any degree of light, in any religion or system of belief, is graced by God with opportunities for greater light.” (Betty Eadie)
“There is a tendency among certain religious people in the afterlife to congregate in their little groups and have their little sessions of what they feel are heaven. Eventually they become very bored with this narrowness, and then their own helpers and teachers will try to give them another idea to help them to break away from this narrow mindset. In the higher realms there is a unity of God-praise, not a segregation of the praise of God.” (Margaret Tweddell)
d. Harmful belief — extremely faulty religious doctrines
Within some religions are various sects or denominations that are often based upon the magnification of some particular religious doctrine. Below are some insights about this:
“Some Christians expect heaven to be a place where people stand in front of the throne, worshiping forever. Such a view of heaven is boring and childlike. There are so many heavenly realms and in each of them there is a fractal that is your particular interpretation, unless you are part of the group soul that believes in only the God of a particular religion.” (Mellen-Thomas Benedict)
“Insincere prayers of repetition have little, if any, light. These, having no power, are not heard. But there is no prayer greater than that of a mother for her children.” (Betty Eadie)
“The belief that we are separate from God is the only real sin.” (P.M.H. Atwater)
“When we die, there is no so-called Judgment Day involving the hellfire and brimstone that is described in the Bible. God judges no one. The only judgment is self-judgment.” (Sherry Gideon)
“We do not sit at the feet of a man with a long white beard called God. God is within, whether you are in or out of the body.” (Betty Bethards)
“There is no doctrine and no belief to pursue other than knowing that the Being of Light is God.” (Norman Paulsen)
“When we enter the spirit realm, we are given glimpses of things we expected to see in order to bring us comfort. We may briefly see a teacher we worshipped in our lifetime: Jesus, Buddha, or another guru, according to your expectations. But gently we are brought out of many of our illusions and are shown that we have not landed in an ultimate paradise with gold paved streets.” (Betty Bethards)
“It is not true, as some people think, that if we only give verbal assent to belief in God, that is our passport to heaven and everything will be all right. Not so. God helps those who help themselves.” (Margaret Tweddell)
“We do not go to heaven by worshiping Jesus, or by believing in his name, or by believing in his work on the cross, or by accepting him as our Savior. The way to heaven is through love. God is love. We grow to heaven by allowing love to grow in our hearts and create heaven within us by practicing unconditional love.” (Kevin Williams)
“Being a Christian is not enough to attain heaven. We grow to heaven by emulating the unconditional love of Jesus rather than by worshipping him.” (Kevin Williams)
“If you insist upon searching for God, you will do this for awhile until you get the idea that you are following an illusion. God is love in all religions, so the more we live love the closer we are to God.” (Betty Bethards)
“Religious beliefs can limit an open mind. Any belief such as soul sleep, God on a throne, angels with wings, the trinity, etc. etc., is initially carried over at the time of death, but very soon, all beliefs that don’t correlate with afterlife reality will just simply not be believed anymore. This is all a process of instruction.” (Kevin Williams)
e. Harmful belief — atheism (under certain conditions)
There is a misconception that people who don’t believe in God or an afterlife are heading straight to hell after death. Believing that all atheists go to hell is, in itself, a harmful religious belief. And like all rigid beliefs, the belief that death is the end of everything can create problems for those who hold this belief. Here are some insights:
“Disavowing the possibility of the existence of a Higher Power may contribute to the why of a “Less Than Positive” (LTP) near-death experience: 19.4 percent of my LTP study group labeled themselves as atheist or agnostic prior to their experience.” (Dr. Barbara Rommer)
“An atheist is as likely to have an NDE as was a devoutly religious person. Regardless of their prior attitudes – whether skeptical or deeply religious – and regardless of the many variations in religious beliefs and degrees of skepticism from tolerant disbelief to outspoken atheism – most of these people were convinced that they had been in the presence of some supreme and loving power and had a glimpse of a life yet to come. Almost all who experienced an NDE found their lives transformed and a change in their attitudes and values, and in their inclination to love and to help others.” (Dr. Kenneth Ring)
“If you don’t believe in God or an afterlife, you will probably be kept in a sleep state for the first ‘two to three day’ period. You will wake up in a beautiful meadow or some other calm and peaceful place where you can reconcile the transition from the death state to the continuous life. You are given teachings in the hope that you do not refuse to believe that you are dead.” (Betty Bethards)
“People do not have hellish NDEs because they are atheists. My research shows that it is what is within us that matters, not the religious belief we have or don’t have. Nevertheless, not having a belief in life after death can lead to serious problems such as having an excuse to treat others badly. Before his NDE, Howard Storm was such a person and his NDE was certainly very hellish because of it. Interesting enough, his NDE is remarkably similar to the hell witnessed by Dr. George Ritchie during his NDE. Another remarkably similar hellish experience was documented by Ruth Montgomery through her paranormal research. Also, the Tibetan Book of the Dead describes a similar hell for people who lack spiritual development. All four of these sources agree that having an excuse to treat others badly can create a hellish condition. Such a hellish spiritual condition is certainly not limited to atheists.” (Kevin Williams)
7. Religious aftereffects resulting from NDEs
“One of the truths about NDEs is that each person integrates their NDE into their own pre-existing belief system.” (Jody Long)
“The Beings of Light found in NDEs usually conform to the predominant religion the person was exposed to, but not always. Jesus has appeared in near-death scenarios of Jewish people, for instance; a Muslim man once told me he was met by Buddha.” (P.M.H. Atwater)
“Some experiencers find joining a church to be helpful. Others find quitting their church to be helpful. Near-death experiences tend to make people less religious and more spiritual.” (IANDS FAQ)
“Experiencers tend to become more spiritual – though not necessarily more involved in organized religion.” (Dr. Kenneth Ring)
“No matter what the nature of the NDE, it alters some lives. Atheists embrace the existence of a deity, while dogmatic members of a particular religion report feeling welcome in any church or temple or mosque.” (P.M.H. Atwater)
“After having an NDE, people tend to exhibit a significant shift in their beliefs on a wide range of subjects including a general tendency toward an increased openness to the idea of reincarnation.” (Dr. Kenneth Ring)
“After having an NDE, religious observance may increase or lessen, but a deepened belief in God, or a Higher Power, is almost certain. People say, ‘Before, I believed; now I know.'” (IANDS FAQ)
“Religious orientation is not a factor affecting either the likelihood or the depth of the NDE. An atheist is as likely to have one as a devoutly religious person. Regardless of their prior attitudes – whether skeptical or deeply religious – and regardless of the many variations in religious beliefs and degrees of skepticism from tolerant disbelief to outspoken atheism – most of these people were convinced that they had been in the presence of some supreme and loving power and had a glimpse of a life yet to come. Almost all who had an NDE find their lives transformed and are changed in their attitudes and values, and in their inclination to love and to help others.” (Dr. Kenneth Ring)
“An experiencer’s religious beliefs do not prevent the expansion of psychic abilities resulting from their experience.” (P.M.H. Atwater)
“Death does not suddenly turn a non-religious person into a religious person.” (Margaret Tweddell)
8. Miscellaneous NDE and religion insights
“I saw that we could literally call down thousands of angels in our aid if we ask in faith.” (Betty Eadie)
“The universe is God’s cathedral. There is one God who is worshiped through many different teachings of many different religious faiths. The gods of one faith are the angels, saints, or supernatural beings of other faiths. God is in all of us. God is male and female, all races, and the reason for all religions. Even those who say they do not believe in God believe in energy and/or a life force; therefore, they do actually believe in God, they just have not figured out the name for ‘God’ yet. God created differences in religion because of the different lessons we all need to learn. The problem with institutionalizing God’s church through religions is that each religion tries to limit that which is limitless. God created differences because there are different ways to serve God, and different lessons we all need to learn. The more spiritually evolved one is, the more one sees truth in different religions; one less spiritually evolved sees only differences. To be fixed in beliefs is to try to make the infinite finite. The belief that we are limited is an illusion. We are limited only by our beliefs. Cries, wishes, hopes, desires, and thoughts are all forms of prayer. Prayer is talking to God. Meditation is listening to God. Angels only need to be asked to intervene in your life. A wrathful and threatening god is a god of man’s creation. Satan and demons are what you make them. Evil only exists because we fear and think unkind thoughts. The beginning of all sin is seeing self as separate from others and God, creating the illusion that the deeds of self will not cause harm to others. Anger is not the opposite of love. Indifference is. Anger is an expression of our free will, often manifested as a result of feeling controlled and feeling the need to assert our will power over others. There is no unforgiveable sin. It is best to think of sin as the mistake of forgetting our oneness with God.Anger is love’s energy misused. Bigotry is self-hate. When we hate others, we hate ourselves. When you see someone full of hatred or anger, treat them with love so that you can be an example they may later reflect. An act of hostility, like a ripple on a pond, radiates out from the giver until eternity. As long as you are a child of rage, you will not find the power to know your potential as a child of God.” (Sandra Rogers)
“Prayer is a tangible force – a power for good here on this earth! Many people ask me what was the first thing I thought or felt when I came out of my coma, about 3 weeks after the accident. I could feel Christ’s love and compassion for me and I believe the prayers of many for me made him tune into me personally, and led to my incredible experience with Christ in that heavenly garden.” (Derry Bresee)
“NDErs are not more or less religious than in the cross-section of the population. They come from many religious backgrounds and from the ranks of agnostics and even atheists.” (IANDS FAQ)
“Religious backgrounds do not affect who are most likely to have an NDE.” (P.M.H. Atwater)
“Many people are turned off by religion. Any complete body of knowledge is like a spoke in a wheel – pointing to the center of ultimate truth. Science, art, music, philosophy and religion run into trouble because they are not yet complete bodies of knowledge even though religion is advertised and sold as such.” (Arthur Yensen)
“Evil and the devil do not exist. What people consider evil is really ignorance. Hitler was not an “evil” man per se. He was just so incredibly ignorant of spiritual realities that he was practically retarded at a spiritual level. Such people are to be pitied and our unconditional love should extended even to him because it is hard to hate a retarded person.” (Kevin Williams)
“There is no such thing as sin. There are only mistakes. Everything is a learning experience. We are here to make mistakes in order to learn and grow from them.” (Jayne Smith)
“If you read the Bible with the idea of finding contradictions and problems, you will find them. The Bible contains spiritual truth and it has to be read spiritually in order to understand it. It should be read prayerfully. When read prayerfully, it talks to you and reveals itself to you.” (Howard Storm)
“Religious figures including the founders of world religions, the saints and prophets, exist in various spirit realms. The similarity of one’s life, heart and knowledge to a particular figure determines one’s closeness to these religious figures.” (Nora Spurgin)
“The Being of Light seen in near-death experiences can change into different figures, such as Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, mandalas, archetypal images and signs. Our beliefs shape the kind of feedback we get from this Being. If we were a Buddhist or Catholic or Fundamentalist, we would get a feedback loop of our own beliefs.” (Mellen-Thomas Benedict)
“In the spirit realms, you are able to go back in time and live in the minds of Jesus and his disciples. You can heard their conversations, experience them eating, passing wine, smells, tastes – as pure consciousness. Any time in history, you can go there.” (Dr. George Rodonaia)
“There is no difference between scrubbing floors and praying, between balancing your checkbook and praising God. It’s all the same energy from the same Source. The only difference is how we choose to manifest that energy at any given moment in time and space.” (P.M.H. Atwater)
“Outward worship does not accomplish anything, but rather it is the inner elements from which the outward ones come that really count.” (Emanuel Swedenborg)
“I saw the Christian heaven. We expect it to be a beautiful place, and you stand in front of the throne, worshiping forever. I tried it. It is boring! This is all we are going to do? It is childlike.” (Mellen-Thomas Benedict)
“Life is what you worship as God.” (Edgar Cayce)
“Then I thought about Jesus and he came. There was never any feeling or need to worship him. No awe or fear. Rather, it was a feeling of seeing a beloved elder brother after being apart for so long.” (P.M.H. Atwater)
“Worship God within others through love and you will be following the commandment of Christ.” (Kevin Williams)
“Hindu near-death experiences often consist of someone reading a person’s record of their life. In some Christian near-death experiences, it is the Book of Life that is read.” (Pasricha and Stevenson)
9. Spiritual concepts of religion
Christianity: The following Bible verses show exactly how love is the greatest, most important, supremely exalted concept in the entire Christian faith and the source of all heavenly worship and object of all adoration. Love is God.
The way to eternal life is simply through the practice of love. (Luke 10:25-28)
“Everyone who loves is born of the Spirit and knows God.” (1 John 4:7)
“Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
“Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)
“Anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:19-21)
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” (1 John 3:14)
Faith implies the possibility of doubt. Knowledge implies certainty; but love surpasses both of them. (Ephesians 3:19)
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6)
“But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
“If you have the gift of prophecy, can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, have the faith that moves mountains, speak in the tongues of humans and of angels, give all you possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, you gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
“Love is the fulfillment of God’s law.” (Romans 13:10)
“Love is the commandment of God.” (John 15:12)
“God is love.” (1 John 4:8) “Love is patient, kind, doesn’t envy, doesn’t boast, is not proud, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, and never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
“God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God.” (Acts 10:34-35)
Buddhism: Hatreds do not ever cease in this world by hating, but by love: this is an eternal truth. Overcome anger by love, overcome evil by good … Overcome the miser by giving, overcome the liar by truth. (Dhammapada 1.5 & 17.3)
Hinduism: A man acts according to the desires to which he clings. After death he goes to the next world bearing in his mind the subtle impressions of his deeds; and, after reaping there the harvest of those deeds, he returns again to this world of action. Thus he who has desire continues subject to rebirth. He who lacks discrimination, whose mind is unsteady and whose heart is impure, never reaches the goal, but is born again and again. But he who has discrimination, whose mind is steady and whose heart is pure, reaches the goal and, having reached it, is born no more. (Upanishads)
Judaism: What is hurtful to yourself do not to your fellow man. That is the whole of the Torah and the remainder is but commentary. (Rabbi Hillel)
Islam: Shall I tell you what acts are better than fasting, charity, and prayers? Making peace between enemies are such acts; For enmity and malice tear up the heavenly rewards by the roots. (Quran)
Sufism: You when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit. (Kahlil Gibran)
Zoroastrianism: One good deed is worth a thousand prayers. (Zoroaster)
Wicca: Bide ye the Wiccan Law ye must, in perfect love and perfect trust. Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill: An ye harm none, do what ye will. (The Wiccan Rede)
Atheism: Love is the expression of one’s values, the greatest reward you can earn for the moral qualities you have achieved in your character and person, the emotional price paid by one man for the joy he receives from the virtues of others. (Ayn Rand)
10. The Bible in light of NDEs
The following are Kevin Williams’ interpretation of Christian doctrines as they relate to his NDE research:
Jesus: In the Bible, Jesus revealed himself as a Being of Light. And Jesus taught that we too are beings of light. Jesus is the way, the example, the pattern which we can follow to attain at-onement with God as Jesus did.
The Trinity: Jesus referred to the oneness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which suggests that God has a three-dimensional nature. One particular NDE account revealed that humans are made up of a trinity of bodies: physical body, mind (soul) body and spirit body. There are also references in the Bible equating God to life, light and love. Thus, the Bible refers to divinity as the body of Christ, the mind of Christ, and the spirit of Christ. Paul states that “we have the mind of Christ” which shows that we too have God within us.
Humanity: Jesus taught that we are gods which means that God dwells within us all. This agrees with NDE accounts. We were made in the image (a trinity) of God. We are sons (and daughters) of God just as Jesus is.
The Silver Cord: The Bible mentions a “silver cord” which traditionally is a cord that connects the soul body with the physical body. During an NDE or OBE, this tinsel-like cord can be seen. During an NDE, if this cord is broken then return to the body is impossible.
Heaven and Hell: Traditional Christianity believes in three realms: hell, the world, and heaven. NDE accounts agree with this except that there are many hell realms and many heaven realms – many mansions. Heaven and hell are actually spiritual conditions within us. The kingdom of heaven is within us. The Bible and NDEs reveal that communication in the afterlife is by mental telepathy.
Evil: The Bible states that evil and sin are like plagues afflicting humanity. NDE accounts reveal that “evil” is really spiritual ignorance and “evil” are mistakes we make out of ignorance. God allows us to be ignorant and make mistakes for the purpose of instruction and spiritual growth.
Salvation: Jesus taught that eternal life is attained through loving others and God unconditionally. Eternal life means no more death. NDE accounts overwhelmingly agree. In fact, many NDE accounts reveal that we are already “saved.” We just have to realize it and make it a reality.
Judgment: The Bible states that God does not judge anyone nor does Jesus judge anyone  . The Bible states that the great Judge will set us free      . God is love; and love keeps no record of wrongs. NDE accounts affirm this to be true also. Both agree that the only judgment that exists is self-judgment and self-condemnation . After death, we judge our entire life – every thought, every word, and every deed.
Damnation: The concept of eternal damnation also comes from the symbolism of the parables of Jesus and the Book of Revelation   which were never meant to be interpreted literally as even Jesus taught. Hell is not literal fire   . NDE accounts and the Bible affirms that hell is state of purification and reflection – not eternal damnation, although it may seem like an eternity for those who are in that condition. Hell is a temporary state .
Resurrection: Traditionally, Christians believe “resurrection” to mean a time when corpses come out of their graves at the Last Judgment when Jesus appears on earth again. But NDE accounts and early Christian history agree that resurrection really means spiritual regeneration and spiritual reincarnation      . Death is an out-of-body experience to other realms  . There is no sleeping in graves. The Bible describes people who returned from the dead. Millions of people are returning from the dead today through NDEs. The Bible and NDEs reveal that we existed before we were even conceived     .
The Bible: During one man’s NDE, he was told by Jesus that the Bible is true, but it has to be interpreted spiritually and read prayerfully. Early Christian history shows that there were many writings considered sacred but not included in the Bible. Hundreds of years after the death of Jesus, it was a relatively small group of bishops who determined what would be included in the Bible and what would not.
Prayer: One woman learned during her NDE that prayers of repetition are not even heard. And there is no prayer more powerful than a mother’s prayer for her children. Sincere prayers can be seen on the Other Side as beacons of light shining out from the earth. Group prayer appears as a gigantic beam of light. All sincere prayers are answered; but we cannot tell God how to answer them.
Evolution: NDE insights reveal that both evolution and creationism are true. Science strongly suggests that the universe was created through the process of evolution. NDE accounts reveal that evolution is a divine process which all things experience by means of reincarnation (or “resurrection” as it was known in Biblical days).
Abortion: Some people believe life begins at conception and others believe life begins at birth. Some NDE insights suggests that the soul enters the fetus anytime during a particular time frame of the pregnancy. That time frame is roughly between six months after conception and up to an hour after birth. Concerning abortion, some women have had NDEs while having an abortion. None of the accounts that I have read, indicated that God was displeased with what they did. All of them were heavenly experiences with no condemnation. Indeed, NDEs show that abortion is never even an issue with God. In fact, the Bible actually condones abortion .
Homosexuality: The Bible was written during a time when society considered all sinners, homosexuals, adulterers, and prostitutes as outcasts and worthy of death. Women had the same status as cattle, slavery was sanctioned, and so-called sexually immoral people were stoned to death. But Jesus didn’t follow the social norms of those days. He hung out with sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors and even made some of them apostles. He even told the religious bigots of his time how the prostitutes were entering heaven before they were.
The Bible is virtually silent about the issue of homosexuality. There are only six verses in the Bible that refer to homosexuality and they have been misinterpreted for thousands of years. Historically, people’s misinterpretation of the Bible has left a trail of suffering, bloodshed and death. Over the centuries people who misunderstood or misinterpreted the Bible have done terrible things. The Bible has been misused to (a) kill homosexuals; (b) defend bloody crusades and tragic inquisitions; (c) to support slavery, apartheid and segregation; (d) to persecute Jews and non-Christian people of faith; (e) to support Hitler’s Third Reich and the Holocaust; (f ) to oppose medical science; (g) to condemn inter-racial marriage; (h) to execute women as witches, and to (i ) support the Ku Klux Klan.
The Bible is not a science textbook nor a book about human sexuality although scientific studies prove homosexuality to be a genetic trait. In fact, the Bible describes various sexual practices which were acceptable in those days but are considered immoral today. Here are a few examples:
If a bride is found not to be a virgin, the Bible demands she be executed on the spot by stoning (Deuteronomy 22:13-21).
If a married person is found committing adultery, the Bible demands both adulterers be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 22:22).
Divorce is strictly forbidden by the Bible in both Testaments as is remarriage by divorcees (Mark 10:1-12).
The Bible forbids a married couple from having sex while the wife is menstruating. If they disobey, both man and wife shall be executed (Leviticus 18:19).
When a man died childless, his widow is ordered by Biblical law to have sex with each of his brothers in turn until she bears her deceased husband a male heir (Mark 12:18-27).
If a man gets into a fight with another man and his wife intervenes to rescue her husband by grabbing the other man’s genitals, her hand shall be cut off and no pity shall be shown her (Deuteronomy 25:11-12).
The Bible endorsed the practice of one man having many wives.
God ordered the prophet Hosea to “marry a whore.”
The marrying of 11-year-old girls was Biblically acceptable.
Inter-racial marriage was Biblically unacceptable.
Birth control was Biblically unacceptable.
Seeing your parents naked was definitely not acceptable.
Some people falsely claim the story of Sodom (Genesis 19:1-14) is a story about a city being destroyed by God because it was filled with homosexuals. But Jesus and five Hebrew prophets all describe the sins that led to the destruction of Sodom and not one of them mentions homosexuality.
In Ezekiel 16:48-49, the prophet says, “This is the sin of Sodom; she and her suburbs had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not help or encourage the poor and needy. They were arrogant and this was abominable in God’s eyes.” Sodom was destroyed because the people there didn’t take God seriously about the poor, the hungry, the homeless or the outcast. It does not condemn homosexuality itself. As for the story of Lot, it was common for thieves, soldiers and bullies to rape their vanquished enemies to assert their victory and to dehumanize and demean them. The act of rape or threatening to rape is about power and revenge, not about homosexuality.
In Leviticus 20:13 you will read these words: “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death.” The idea of executing homosexuals is repulsive to spiritual people today. But there is an important truth about God in this verse that has nothing to do with sex. Leviticus is a holiness code written about 3,000 years ago. This code includes prohibitions against round haircuts, tattoos, working on the Sabbath, wearing garments of mixed fabrics, eating pork or shell fish, getting your fortune told, even touching the skin of a pig. These “abominations” are offensive cultural behaviors which people in those days considered tasteless. They were written for the priests of Levi only to set the priests of Israel over and against priests of other cultures.
Jesus taught people to love others unconditionally which includes loving people who were born with a sexual preference different from ours. This is supported by the gospels, the NDEs of gays and lesbians, and mere logic: God loves homosexuals otherwise he wouldn’t be creating so many of them every day from the beginning.