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September 21, 2010

Why Are Religious Claims a Target for the Extraordinary Claims Campaign?
Some comments on Supernatural Claims, Evidence, and the Burden of Proof

The Claims:

“The heavens” originally referred to the sky (effectively, outer space), but Heaven has come to mean “the place where spirits and the gods dwell”.

Throughout the world, believers in an afterlife seek the rewards of a good life in whatever existence comes after death. Each religion has its own version of Heaven, including reincarnation, the grace of angels, the faces of friends and loved ones, or a spiritual world of eternal bliss with no pain and no struggle.

The Evidence:

No person in recorded history has directly detected the existence of any Heaven and been able to communicate it to other living people. Two sources support the notion of Heaven:

  • Passages in sacred texts, presumed by followers to be inerrant.  Clearly, these are compelling only to the followers of a particular religion. Other religious adherents, as well as atheists and agnostics, find such proofs unconvincing.
  • Written first-hand experiences of those who have had near-death experiences. Medical science defines death in terms of the complete lack of brain activity for a period of time. Despite depictions in movies, no one has ever been revived after clinical death. Those who have come close describe experiences similar to popular descriptions of Heaven. A near-death experience nearly always involves a temporary deprivation of oxygen to the brain, so the fact that people around the world report similar incidents is not unexpected.


References in sacred books are insufficient as proof of the existence of Heaven. Subjective reports of those who have undergone near-death experiences are more like instances of dreaming or sleep walking than legitimate experiences of an afterlife. Finally, the belief that something better should exist beyond death is of course insufficient proof that it in fact does exist.


Wikipedia Page on Heaven

Wikipedia Page on Near Death Experiences

4 Comments leave one →
  1. J Bravo permalink
    April 21, 2011 9:57 AM

    Read an interesting essay on an Athiest’s view of the afterlife. The conclusion was very moving and in my opinion would probably be the most probable experience of an afterlife we could hope to experience after we die.

    Here is the conclusion:

    I will become part of the trees that grow wherever my ashes are scattered, joining the ecosystem of the forest. I will be in the slow green heartwood of the trunks as they patiently tick off the centuries, in the buds that burst forth in spring and in the leaves that explode with color in autumn. I will be the sparkle of sunlight on the surface of a flowing mountain stream. I will sink into the earth and mix with the groundwater, eventually flowing back and rejoining the ocean where all life on this planet ultimately began. I will be in the waves that crash on the shore, in the warm sheltered tidal pools, in the coral reefs that bloom with life, and in the depths that echo with whale songs. I will be subducted into the planet’s core and join the three-hundred-million-year cycle of the continental plates. I will rise into the sky and, in the fullness of time, become dispersed throughout the atmosphere, until every breath will contain part of me. And billions of years from now, when our sun swells and blasts the Earth’s atmosphere away, I will be there, streaming into space to rejoin the stars that gave my atoms birth. And perhaps some day, billions of years yet beyond that, on some distant planet beneath bright alien skies, an atom that once was part of me will take part in a series of chemical reactions that may ultimately lead to new life – life that will in time leave the sea that gave it birth, crawl up onto the beach, and look up into the cosmos and wonder where it came from.

    The full essay can be found here:

  2. greame permalink
    December 11, 2010 6:53 PM

    Heaven sounds really ****ing boring.

  3. Fundamentalist Atheist permalink
    December 8, 2010 1:33 PM

    meep meep bullshit skyddaddy meep meep…

  4. 30 Helens Agree permalink
    December 6, 2010 9:25 AM

    Most people’s mental description or image of heaven is made up of things some already have here on earth, in life. Heaven to someone who has already lived in an earth paradise, with all of the luxuries possible would be very different than the heaven of someone who’s life was not so privileged. At best, heaven would be the ideal life we had always wanted. So what, then is the point? Couldn’t we just make our actual life our ideal life? What is the difference? If this means that life on earth is a test to separate the good and the sinners with the good going to heaven, what could the reward possibly be? Perhaps it is easier to turn to blind faith for this one. or that it’s SO good, awesome, beautiful, stimulating, entertaining, loving that we mere mortals can not even fathom it! It’s just the perfect answer, the perfect fantasy.

    I had not lived for millions of yeas before I was born, I will not live for many more after I die. The same concept. It is not so hard to believe or accept. It is not me who will die, it’s the world that will end. People act as if the idea that after they die there is nothing and their body will just decay is too depressing . But when you factor in that you won’t be burdened with actually having to see you body decay or be consciously aware of the nothingness, it is not that depressing.

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