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Has a narrowed focus on Judaism, Christianity, Islam.This is a solid intersection of rigorous research and just sitting down and having a long talk with a variety of people on the subject Miller s voice is strong, compassionate, level headed, readable She s a good Beatrice guide for the journey through the conversations.Nothing wildly provocative or groundbreaking but doesn t need to be Plenty of historical including recent history seismic shifts are outlined This isn t a testament to or rebuttal of faith It s a survey of doctrines and evolving beliefs and how religions and its people got there Which makes for an absorbing read. I ve found my soul sister Meet Lisa Miller, a self described journalist, religion expert, and professional skeptic She sometimes wants to believe, but it isn t in her She misses her grandparents, and wishes she could picture them contentedly up there in heaven waiting for her, but she just can t Her journey in this book to learn about heaven may have been spurred by a certain emptiness.In search of heaven, Lisa interviews dozens of people, from rock musicians to homemakers to heavy hitting theologians From Muslims to Jews her heritage to Christians and beyond She finds that, for most people, heaven is the best of what they already enjoy on earth only a little better And forever.Lisa likes statistics, and the statistics show religious views are changing Today, 65 percent of Americans believe that many different religious paths can lead to eternal salvation Only a third of Americans still believe in a God who controls human events Yet, 81 percent of Americans tell pollsters that they believe in heaven, up from 72 percent ten years earlier How can this be It s hard to know exactly what they mean beyond an automatic and understandable hope for something after death besides the terrifying end of everything Belief in reincarnation, for example, is trending upward, fueled in part because people today WANT to come back and live again Life is better in our age Where before, we wanted to escape the cycle, now we want another run at it.A fun and thought provoking book, I d recommend this one for anyone. #FREE PDF Ä Heaven ¹ An Accessible History Of Heaven From The Earliest Scriptural Conceptions Of The Afterlife To Theologians To The Convictions Perceptions Of Everyday People Drawing On History Popular Culture, Textual Research Everyday Beliefs, Heaven Offers An Understanding Of One Of The Most Shared Ideals Of Spiritual Life Miller Raises Discussions Not Just About Visions Of The Afterlife, But About How Beliefs Have Influenced The Societies We Ve Built The Lifestyles To We Ve Adopted, Exploring The Roots Of Beliefs In Heaven How These Have Evolved Through The Ages To Offer Hope She Also Reveals How The Notion Of Heaven Has Been Used For Manipulation, As Inspiration For Selfless Behavior As Justification For Mass Murder As She Demonstrates, The Desire For A Celestial Afterlife Is Shared By The Faithful Around The World Across Religions While There Are Many Notions Of What Exactly Heaven Is How To Get There, Jews, Christians Muslims All Agree That Heaven Is God S Home From Revelation To The Left Behind Series, Augustine To Osama Bin Laden, Muslims In The W Bank To Mormons Baptizing The Dead, Heaven Is A Look At A Cherished Religious IdealIntroductionWhat Is Heaven The MiracleThe Kingdom Is Near Green, Green Pastures ResurrectionSalvation VisionariesReunionsIs Heaven Boring EpilogueAuthor S Note AcknowledgmentsNotesBibliographyIndex I approached the book as a non believer in any of the Big Three religions responsible for the idea of Heaven in the first place I want always to keep my antennae out for changes in their belief systems, since the Big Three have a history of disliking people like me, and the only way to do that is to read up on where things began Can t recongize change if you don t have a picture of the starting point, can you Ideas of Heaven have always seemed sowell, silly is the only word I have for itto me I can think of nothing that fitsexactly the are you KIDDING with this stuff strain of unbelief than the notion of Eternal Delight or Eternal Punishment What could one possibly do in one meager lifetime to merit Eternal Anything At All It s a very exclusion oriented, blame fixated kind of concept.So that s what I learned about myself from reading this book I chose wisely when I waved bye bye to Jesus, I can t even buy into the rewards program, still less the nonsensical rules part of the contract.But the evolution of the idea, which remains one of the most powerful and motivating in the Big Three s arsenal, is fascinating The author is a professional religion journalist in mainstream publications and a sort of practicing Jew Of the Big Three, Judaism is the lightest on the Heaven front, and isn t growing as fast as the other two,nimble, marketers She approaches each of her subjects with a profound respect for his or her beliefs, with the notable and quite rudely dismissive exception of a psychic medium She delves briefly into the history of each of the Big Three s ideas of Heaven before going into a lot of detail about the current set of beliefs in the current version of their concepts.It s a shock to me that people buy this guff at all It s transparently manipulative, and it s not in the least bit shy about its net effect of damning those Not Like You to eternity without happiness What a horrifyingly vicious mindset that is.Well, the author doesn t agree with me, and she very carefully and very thoroughly explains what the Big Three s adherents today think without judging them I wish I could be so kind I judge them harshly for this mindset, and I think they should all remember that chickens always come home to roostwhat goes out strongly flavors what comes back.Look at me I give out rationalistic unbelief, and am engulfed in tidal waves of emotionalistic credulity It is the way of the world More s the pity. Lisa Miller has written on matters religious for both The Wall Street Journal and for Newsweek This speaks poorly for both publications Sadly, she doesn t know what s she writes about, not here at least, not beyond her reports of pleasant conversations she s had by phone or face to face with others, some of whom presumably did know what they were talking about.I would be very surprised if Ms Miller has ever seriously studied the Koran or the Hebrew or Christian Scriptures If she once did, she s forgotten a lot about them and about the contexts within which they were written and redacted What she does seem familiar with are modern polls frightening figures indicating at worst that most Americans are psychotic or at best that many Americans lie to pollsters delivering their typically simple minded questions While lacking in intellectual rigour or just perhaps aiming for a lowest common denominator readership , Ms Miller seems a nice enough person, not herself crazy and tolerant of those who are If there are persons out there who would actually enjoy reading a sophomoric patchwork survey of beliefs in pleasant hereafters, this might be justifiable as a liberal introduction toserious religious studies. When I was a little kid, first grade or so, I had a nightmare about Chilly Willie, the penguin cartoon character Chilly was out in the ocean and he drowned But that wasn t the scary part The scary part was seeing the bird sitting on a cloud in heaven And he was going to be there, doing nothing for ever That boredom was what scared me That s why I was happy to see that Lisa Miller, in her book Heaven Harper Collins 2010 , included a chapter entitled Is Heaven Boring Because a lot of adults wonder about that, it isn t just the mini me Miller explores many interesting questions about heaven and the answers provided by the monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam for the last few millennia Ideas about Heaven from culture Dante to pop culture The Lovely Bones are also presented Miller is Jewish, the religion editor of Newsweek and skeptical herself about the existence of heaven But her interviews with followers of various faiths are fair and respectful She calls Anne Graham Lotz Billy s daughter a friend and listens politely and uncomfortably to Anne pleas to take the Christian path to Heaven She also writes about her respect for prominent atheists It is interesting to follow the history of views of Heaven through the years and the various ways heaven is viewed today Is Heaven a physical place or purely spiritual Does one get entrance to Heaven through faith or works or does everyone get in How does one s view of Heaven affect the way one lives life The varied answers to these questions that Miller finds are intriguing, sometime funny, and thought provoking I knew a lot of the things that Miller writes about I remembered from my seminary days about Augustine s teaching that unbaptized babies would not get into heaven The Bishop of Hippo wrote that just as the thief on the cross would enter Heaven based on his faith, though he was not baptized babies who are baptized enter Heaven though they have not faith I hadn t known or remembered that the church father went on to argue that there was a special baby hell, wherein baby souls wouldn t really even notice their torture Baby hell is a concept worth pondering I was unaware of some of the Muslim theories of the intermediary state between death and the Resurrection This is a theory that two angels with green eyes and long fangs test the newly dead with a series of questions Those who pass the test with flying colors will get a window view of heaven Second tier corpses will get a window to hell with the assurance that they won t go there Third level is pretty bad because your grave will be set afire and fourth is worse because your sins are turned into wild animals that will attack you I also found fascinating the archeological evidence that in ancient Israel, people kept their ancestors bones under there house and may have consulted and or worshiped them Miller can, of course, present no definitive conclusions with her research But she seems to believe that it is a challenge to rationalism to believe in Heaven and is very uncomfortable with the idea that there is only one route to get there Obviously, these are difficult questions But I believe in a powerful God who can do as He chooses And that He has graciously choose to give life to His people after life on this earth And as to that question of whether Heaven is boring, I came to my own conclusions when I attended camp as a kid, a few years after that penguin dream A speaker at camp pointed to the beauty around us the spectacular Sierra Nevada Mountains and the fun we d had though the week swimming, games, archery, great food and said that a God who thought up such great things would have even better things to come For me, that answered my fear That s when I trusted Christ for forgiveness of my sins and began looking forward to Heaven. This is a somewhat difficult book to review, for a variety of reasons For one thing, previous reviewers have said much of what I was thinking about saying, sometimes in almost the exact words I was planning to use Reading Heaven got pretty tiresome after a while, mostly due, ironically, to Miller s even handed approach She interviews Christians, Jews, and Muslims clerics and laymen alike and relays a bewildering variety of opinions about the afterlife patiently and sympathetically.She certainly haspatience than me Belief in heaven presents a myriad of problems Is it a real place Will we have bodies Will all good people go to heaven, or just those of my religion Do unbaptized babies go to heaven Won t heaven be boring and it was somewhat painful to me to read the logical contortions that theologians and regular folks have gone through to make it all plausible I suspect that those who, like me, have firmly established opinions on the afterlife whatever those opinions are will find this book trying Perhaps those who are searching, or who don t know what to think, will find something to enjoy here. Lisa Miller gives us readers an extremely entertaining, educative and vulnerable exploration into the plethora of views regarding heaven She is a Reformed Jew and editor of Newsweek s religion section Miller isn t committed to a firm belief in Heaven but definitely manages to elicit our hopes for a meaningful life and perhapsI haven t read any treatment of heaven that isconversationally readable than this book With genuine interest and tolerance the author listens to a variety of view points concerning afterlife She honestly admits that she wished she might have the same faith and confidence in heaven as some of her interviewees express She seems particularly drawn to the ideas of heaven in orthodox Judaism and evangelicalism I am not sure whether or not her hopes are crushed due to being a thoroughly postmodern person divorced from a the ancient world views but she does seem to wish for the earlier literal belief in heaven, even though she is intellectually convinced of modern cosmology I felt as if I were receiving a wonderful review of all the comparative religion courses I have ever had while at college The only difference was that she was thoroughly engaging and utilized testimony from individuals who believed ardently in their views of afterlife rather than mere theorists She made me want to take the topic seriously and to explore how whatever the other side contains it has an importance to my here and now life Lisa Miller has definitely done a vast amount or research and recommends some of the best popular and academic treatments of her subject I was delighted to see that she even spoke to and read N.T Wright one of my favourite Christian theologians who stresses the importance of Resurrection rather than immortality in a bodiless other world Like the author herself, Wright does all in his power to intricately connect the Heaven to Earth in a profoundly hopeful manner While tabulating the views of Heaven in the history of religions and current traditions, she doesn t neglect to submit Heaven to the gaze of empirical science by discussing the various research on NDE Near Death Experience and physic phenomena The age old dilemma of Mind Brian connection is ever in the background However, even when discussing the first hand accounts of dying and returning Lisa Miller emphasizes the need to apply a ethical litmus test as to whether the experience enhanced the character of the person having had it From her examples it appears that the NDE experience regularly retrieves individuals from death to their normal consciousness withlove, generosity and confidence Such transformation can not be easily dismissed Lisa Miller rarely takes sides in the debates on heaven, except in the case of exploiting the grieving through seances or by making the entry to Heaven a sectarian or ethnic privilege She maintains an open mind throughout her book and ultimately displays a gracious attitude toward different points of view There is very little reductionism here nor is there any deriding of the beliefs of others Love is Heaven s watchword Dante is its prime poet Miller doesn t evade the fact that heaven, when overly literalized and humanized, is jest worthy as her comments on Albert Brooks 1991 film Defend Your Life reveal In between reincarnating Hassid Jews, Paradise pursuing Muslims and a host of others, the true North of Miller s discussion is an affirmation of life She exalts the importance of Heaven for the expectant living in her last paragraph,I do not cling to heaven as a radical concept, a place that embodies the best of everything but beyond the best A belief in heaven focuses our minds on the radical nature of what s beautiful, most loving, most just, and most true At the beginning of this book, I said, I believed that heaven was hope I would now amend that to say, Radical hope a constant hope for unimaginable perfection even as we fail to achieve it As Emily Dickinson said, heaven is what we cannot reach But it is worth a human life to try. As you probably could guess, as an atheist I am largely disappointed with Lisa Miller s Heaven Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife The book was endorsed by the popular atheist author Sam Harris, so I thought I d give it a read I thought it would provide a critical analysis of how and why people believe in the concept of Heaven Instead, the book isabout Miller s journey to the questions, What do people of the mainly monotheistic religions believe about Heaven, and how do they act on those beliefs She shares her own kind of spiritual journey to understand her beliefs, or lack of, about God, the afterlife, love, and Heaven She finally answers in her epilogue what she herself truly believes about heaven As I read the book, I kept being overcome with sadness, because to me much of the convictions people seem to have about heaven stem from the existential life that we live The concepts about largely center on longings for eternal joy and peace, mainly because life here on earth has been too complex, too wrought with uncertainty And in the end, people want to believe that they will end up somewhere else that is not this place That there life will not be lived in vain Now of course it so very difficult to talk objectively about heaven because much of what is said about it is rooted in mythical religious beliefs Those beliefs are as varied and fanciful as any tall tale It seems as though that people over time have just made up whatever they wanted to believe about heaven, as a way of expressing their spiritual longings, or the emptiness they feel when their love ones die But I don t think we should burden ourselves with these kinds of fanciful notions and concepts.My father died back in 1981 and though I ve had many dreams about him, and though I wish that he were with us today, I ve never felt like he had to be in some place called heaven He was here he lived, and now he s not here That s it He lives through our memory of him.So for me, this question of heaven is just another religious concept that keeps us from connecting with the existential realities of life Miller doesn t go into philosophical questions about existentialism as it relates to ideas about heaven Her narrative and reportage never get any where that deep Toward the end of the book, I thought she would at least include and analyze John Lennon s song, Imagine , where he starts off with Imagine there s no Heaven It s easy if you try No hell below us Above us only sky Imagine all the people Living for today Interviewing people about what they understand by what he meant in those lyrics would have fit so well into her book Yet, she spends pages and pages sharing the fanciful stories about what people believe about heaven None of the descriptions are based on one iota of fact or rationality One author writes about what heaven is like Mouths will no longer eat, nor will genitals copulate in heaven.mouths will sing praises to God, and genitals will survive for the sake of beauty We will not chew in heaven, but we will have teeth, because we would look funny without them From the Catholics to the Mormons, from the Jews to the Muslims, the fictional accounts of heaven get no better The enduring fascination with the afterlife makes us seem so frail and inept at confronting life as it truly is.Can most people ever really imagine there s no heaven Sadly, it s getting harder to believe that they can. Read Lisa Miller s Heaven Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife with a skeptical eye By the end of the book, I found her research and her book to be lacking in her declared objectivity It is not my job, nor is it my intention, to prove or debunk the reality of any one vision xiv Also I am not a scholar, a religious apologist, or an inspirational writer I do not aim to say definitively what heaven looks like, let alone to prove or disprove its existence I am a journalist in the field of religion, and my goal is to write a book that might guide people through the thicket of their own views about heaven by holding up a mirror of other people s beliefs, both current and past xvi Unfortunately, Miller makes the book personal by injecting her own musings into the book comments that often had me rolling my eyes in irritation or amused disgust The early chapters of Heaven are fairly straightforward research Miller investigates the concept of heaven as presented by the three major monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam She traces the beginnings of the concept of an afterlife or lack of an afterlife for each religion and how those visions changed over time The author includes scriptural excerpts and many interviews with religious scholars The idea of heaven also includes the problem of how one actually gets there bodily resurrection or spiritual This is apparently a contentious debate Miller describes skeptics as those who refuse to believe in a bodily resurrection They do not think God will be able to reassemble bodies whose remains may be scattered and or completely obliterated God, these skeptics believe, cannot put Humpty Dumpty back together again, thus spiritual resurrection is only possible This whole section about resurrection inspired reactions of disbelief, amazement and amusement Disbelief and amazement that people believe in God, who, by the very nature of the name God should be all powerful but perversely don t believe their God is powerful enough to recreate missing or mangled body parts Oh, ye of little faith The worries and questions about bodily resurrection amused and fascinated me which you will be resurrected in heaven You at death, or you at your physical peak Or aperfect version of you I prefer resurrected me to be much taller with perfectly arched eyebrows Will we have sexual organs or be smooth like plastic dolls Will we eat, drink, have hair that grows Such prosaic concerns Never, in a million years, would I ever have thought about any of this Granted, I m an atheist so I see all of this as pointless anyway, but believers put a lot of thought into something they cannot control Author and professor of religion at Boston University, Stephen Prothero, says It seems fantastic and irrational that we re going to have a body in heaven 109 Yes, but is not the whole idea of heaven and God fantastic and irrational If I m going to believe in that kind of magic, why limit it There is no reason why my magical God cannot, upon my death, restore my physical body to its youth and improve upon it as I wish then send it via an invisible elevator, escalator, or beam of light beam me up, Scotty right to heaven where I will frolic for all eternity with animals, visit with family and friends I m still on speaking terms with, read lots of books, eat carbs without counting calories, and catch up on all of my tv shows and movies Of course, before we get too excited about going to heaven and before we should even care about whether we have bodies or just float around like balls of light , there s the whole problem of paying the price of admission salvation Do good works get you through the pearly gates Or must you rely on God s grace I favor the idea of good works because it gives you the illusion having some kind of control over your heavenly fate The problem with this, Miller states, is that it relies on the idea that eternal destiny is completely within an individual s control This leads to abuses such as the Great Indulgence Scandal of the Roman Catholic Church which prompted Martin Luther s angry list , martyrs 9 11 , and false claims of goodness to disguise bad actions The problem with grace is obvious should you bother with good works or trying to lead a decent life if God s grace can overrule any awfulness you ve engaged in And if you can gain entry to heaven only through knowing Jesus, then what about those who lived pre Jesus Or those who haven t had the pleasure of a visit by Jehovah s Witness practitioners passing out their incredibly scientifically inaccurate little booklets Do people who did not and will never know of Jesus through no fault of their own burn in hell That seems pretty harsh Then there s the problem of predestination Some religions including JW, which begs the question why bother knocking on my door to tell me about Jesus if your God has already decided who gets to ride the heavenly Ferris wheel and who doesn t believe that salvation is predestined and nothing you do or don t do during your earthly life affects this Predestination seems totally impractical from a religious perspective If God decides your eternal path before you are born, why bother joining a religion particularly one that holds this belief Why bother trying to live a good life Why bother spreading the word of God I guess you must be very confident that you for whatever reason are one of the blessed few.Unfortunately, heaven isn t the only place you land after death There s hell, purgatory and limbo Purgatory is the cosmic waiting area after death You hang out here for an unspecified time, flipping through months old issues of Good Housekeeping and People Magazine and looking at your phone which is probably useless in purgatory and who wants to check their Facebook page anyway after death Your friends and family are out having fun and here you are, stuck in this misty void, attempting to cleanse your soul of its residual wickedness while waiting for Saint Peter to open the side door, look at a clipboard, and announce your name Purgatory is either a painless soul cleansing process or a torturous journey designed to teach you a lesson about the errors of your past life Limbo is the fun place reserved for unbaptized babies These babies are coated with original sin and doomed to spend all of eternity in baby hell Limbo Augustine, who decided this, obviously was a baby hating dick Not surprisingly, theologians were uncomfortable with the idea of baby hell, so eventually Thomas Aquinas that sentimental goof changed the description of Limbo as a happy place Not heaven original sin still present but a peaceful place stocked with clean nappies, teething rings that never fall on the floor, lots of stuffed animals and colorful mobiles to coo at Later, Pope Benedict XVI decided to phase out Limbo and send all those babies straight to heaven This whole Limbo thing is nuts It was created entirely by Roman Catholic theologians to solve the problem of where to put dead unbaptized babies still afflicted with original sin a concept created by a patriarchal religion to keep women in line If you ve got original sin, you can t go to heaven, even if you re a baby Now, if you re a Christian, you believe this place is real and sanctioned by God But if we humans find this baby hell an uncomfortable concept, we can just get rid of it I love this So did Pope 16 have a chat with God first Is God okay with the Pope getting rid of Limbo It s so amusing to me humans decide they don t like some part of a supposed God sanctioned policy, so they just get rid of it easy to do when it s all a bunch of fiction anyway.After discussing salvation and resurrection, Miller moves on to visions of heaven as expressed by religious scriptures, theologians, and artists There is too much discussion here of Dante s Divine Comedy She also brings up Alice Sebold s The Lovely Bones frequently These might be the only two fictional works she s read that describe heaven Oh, and there is a too serious discussion of the song Heaven by David Byrne and the Talking Heads It s a great song but I never paid any attention to the lyrics apparently to my detriment Miller touches on reports of heaven that is, near death experiences NDE She introduces the subject in chapter 7 Visionaries by describing the NDE of Don Piper, although she doesn t describe it as such About 15 years after he nearly died, Piper wrote the book 90 Minutes in Heaven describing heaven Miller asks Is Don Piper a crackpot, a huckster or a prophet 159 She conveniently forgets to give readers the option of NDE Almost twenty pages later, she finally introduces NDE In modern America, Miller writes on page 176, with all the resuscitation techniques available to us, the number of NDEs is surprisingly high I would say that s not surprising at all It s probably because of our advanced technology that there is a rise in the number of reported NDEs We can now almost literally bring people back from the dead and some of these people would be able to remember the experience Miller interviews an associate professor in the Radiology Dept at the University of Pennsylvania who studies brain scans of religious people who have ecstatic experiences as they meditate and explains those experiences in physiological and biological terms He tells the author that these same processes may be what dying people experience, although he would not say that visions of heaven are caused by neurological processes In order to balance out this science based explanation, the author introduces a psychologist researching the possibility that the visions of heaven should be taken at face value and a Christian author who argues that because there are so many visions of heaven by people who experienced NDE, heaven is real The final chapter discusses the crazy idea that heaven could be boring All that singing, floating around on clouds all are engaged in the activity of heaven, which is gazing upon God 189 Thrilling The problem, Miller and others say, is that contemporary American life is extremely comfortable and rivals the descriptions of material comfort found in heaven That s why, for many people, the idea of heaven seems to be everpersonal and reflect the current culture Or, as in the idea of the Islamic paradise, an idealized world the provides all the comforts yours lacks Islam, a religion borne of desert people, envisions heaven overflowing with lush fruit, streams, and let s not forget all those virgins TheMiller strayed from theological research that could be supported by scripture, religious texts and archaeological artifacts, theeye rolling and ridiculous I found the book She is on this journey to discover heaven along with the reader, and updates her progress periodically Although Miller calls herself a professional skeptic and says she cannot bring herself to believe in a supernatural realm where my grandparents exist as themselves 241 , she often comes across as someone who is this close to falling for a brilliant con She interviewed a Trappist monk named Father Dominic Whedbee This is a man who gave up having a normal life to be a monk and through constant prayer to gain heaven for the whole community, and even for all the souls in the world 136 Miller is grateful for his prayers It feels crazy to be saying this, but Dominic s martyrdom consoles me I am too distracted with my job, my family, my commute, and my grocery list to pay real attention to the fate of my soul Dominic s silent life of prayer gives me comfort and hope I actually believe that if anyone s prayers can get me to heaven, Dominic s can 137 In discussing people s need to believe in supernatural help because supernatural help is so muchreliable than calling 911 in times of trouble, she mentions a friend whose son died For the sake of my friend Jerry, I want to believe in miracles It s enough to make me pray xxv I have a problem with the people she interviewed to support her research Other than the theologians and experts on religious texts, whose comments focused primarily on interpretations of text, some of her interview subjects seemed to be chosen to deliberately support what I feel is the author s actual premise of the book that heaven is real, depending on how you define it Happily, in my research for this book, I did find answers believers whose visions made heaven seem possible or at least comprehensible, theologians and scholars whose explanations were, for me, both moving and memorable The sources of my inspiration were unlikely because they mostly came from believers whose religious faith does not mesh neatly with my own xxvi Her last sentence is ridiculous The dogma of the three monotheisms may differ in some aspects, but they all overlap particularly Islam, which is the youngest of the three and borrows from the earlier two and have one major tenet in common they all demand belief in the supernatural She just wrote a whole damn book explaining how similar the religions are regarding the belief in an afterlife of some kind When discussing NDE, she doesn t interview a medical researcher or a doctor or anyone who can explain the neurological chemical events that happen as the brain shuts down She interviews an associate professor who studies brain scans of religious people When asked if visions of heaven are merely chemical neurological events, he is described as laughing nervously when he says reasonably , well, there s not enough evidence which, based on his job description I don t think he is qualified to give anyway to support a definitive answer one way or another Then she interviews a psychologist who talks with dying people to find patterns and similarities among their experiences Kelly believes the experiences of people who have had near death visions demonstrates that consciousness exists even after normal brain function ceases a theory that could suggest explanations for an afterlife beyond the scientific 180 First, she s a psychologist and does not have a medical background Talking with someone is not comparable with brain scans Second, can she definitively state that that person was medically dead at THIS TIME, yet still experiencing consciousness I mean, come on What she s getting are the fleeting impressions that I assume an oxygen starved brain is experiencing Kelly s interviewee could be unconsciously adding details that maybe he thinks Kelly wants to hear, or details he s heard from other NDE even so, this person was DYING and his memories of garbled sensory input are not solid evidence of anything, much less heaven Kelly goes on to say The frequency and uniformity of NDEs opens up the possibility that these experiences are what they say they are, and we have to take that seriously 180 Carl Sagan would say, actually, that proves the exact opposite that because humans no matter our customs, religious background, ethnicity, nationality are composed of the same biological and chemical matter At some point, a body shutting down engages in similar processes and will produce the same chemical neurological sensations The fact that dying people may all see long dead loved ones isn t remarkable if you missed someone greatly and know or suspect you may be dying, the brain may present with images of comfort What would be interesting research exploring if NDE are reported by people who were conscious of their impending death rather than those who were unconscious comatose at the time The author s credibility is pretty much shot with me when she interviews a Glenn Klausner, a medium with a good reputation 203 Well, whew I d hate to think she went to one of those mediums with a bad rep Miller wants him to contact her grandmother, but not surprisingly Glenn does not do that He basically dials into the spirit world and speaks with whomever answers the phone An Ed Asner lookalike answers and Glenn decides this is her father in law probably because he died before the author met him Even though Glenn gets a lot wrong in this communication, when he tells Miller that her spirit father in law is apologizing for not being a better father to her husband, the author tears up What a sucker She compounds this sucker impression by admitting that despite several misses her remaining credulity in Glenn doesn t completely vanish until spirit dad in law says his still living wife takes too much Valium she doesn t take any But Miller still thinks Glenn is a perfectly nice person who probably believes his own stories She comes to this no shit, Sherlock conclusion about Glenn For my part, I believe Klausner traffics in grief If he really has this gift, he should always give it for free 206 eye roll Lisa Miller spends much of this book trying to justify a belief in heaven for her own personal reasons Although she professes to be a skeptic and to not believe in heaven, I don t believe her She comes across as a sucker just waiting to be taken The people she often chooses to interview are not the best choices and provide weighted commentary in support of heaven Their research seems to be geared to accruing evidence to support their predetermined result the existence of heaven If the thesis of her book had been This book supports my theory hope that heaven exists then fine But she clearly states that that is NOT her mission for the book My problem is the book is trying to prove the idea that heaven exists by interviewing dubious sources and providing weak scientific evidence she knocks down later something she claims she will not do Miller then has the gall in the epilogue to complain that atheist writers Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris whose work she generally admires set up God to be a straw man they can easily knock down later they define God in the most simplistic, kindergarten terms an omniscient, omnipotent meddler, whose inscrutable ways and insane approach to justice motivate people to great evil, or, at best, to compliant thoughtlessness 243 She goes on to say that the majority of Americans don t believe in that kind of a god Miller, your argument is simplistic and as flimsy as the straw God you complain about I agree, some of both authors writings do describe God the way she describes Why Because that is the Biblical GodThey are not going to criticize thegentle, kind, understanding God that people like to believe in the God Americans have created because they are uncomfortable with the angry, spiteful, cruel God of the Old Testament They will base their research on Biblical text Not only that, both authors discuss much, muchthan this tyrannical god Their arguments are muchcomplex and encompassing of religious belief and its practitioners Heaven Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife could have been a muchinteresting book had the author been a better journalist and remained objective She injects her desire to believe into the book and that undermines her stated goal for the book If she had been a gifted writer with a wry sense of humor about her own gullibility, I probably could have laughed with her However, by the time I finished, I had very little respect left for her as a supposed journalist and skeptic.