What Exactly is Our Fixation With Books About Visiting Heaven or Hell?

For some reason in the American Christian culture there is an obsession with stories about people who have claimed to have gone to heaven and hell in a near death experience. This has resulted in a number of popular books on the topic. These books are able to gain a high degree of popularity and I’m not really sure why. To be honest they always make me a bit skeptical.

So it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to learn that the popular book, The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, has been revealed to be a fabrication by Alex Malarkey, the boy who claimed to have the experience in the first place. To be fair Alex and his mother have both been claiming that the book is not very accurate for a number of years, while the father has been the one claiming the income from the book.

However, the real question is why are we so willing to gobble up books like this? To be honest I’m not against people have dreams, visions, or whatever about heaven or hell. I’m just not really sure that we then have to take the vision or dream as an accurate portrayal of reality. If these visions are supernatural in nature, perhaps the purpose is personal, and not license to try to write a bestselling book. It could also be for larger audiences, but again one would think you wouldn’t charge for that right?

The question still remains for me though, why do people buy books about this topic enough to lift them to the bestseller’s list? I’m not really sure to be honest. I’ve never read any of that type of book and have little interest. My best guess is that it gives people hope that what they believe is true. Of course to do this you also have to claim that their experience is to be taken as 100% literal factual truth, something I’m very unwilling to do.

Maybe people buy them out of curiosity. After all we love a good story and tend to even more if it is a story someone is claiming to have happened to them. I’m just really not sure. The whole thing just makes me wonder.

I’m certainly not completely against heaven and hell being real places, but I often wonder if the way we’ve grown accustomed to portraying the two entities are very accurate. Details seem rather scarce when we look at the Biblical portrayals, and it can be hard to determine the meaning behind some of the imagery used in conjunction with one or the other. Not to mention that it’s not entirely clear what exactly happens right after we die, so it just winds up being a bit difficult for me to believe these near death experiences are accurate representations of heaven or hell.

Maybe I’m not fixated on these stories because the draw of heaven or the fear of hell are not my main reasons for believing in God. I believe because I know my own limitations and sin. I believe because I trust that God is good and just. I believe because I’m not sure that all of existence could just happen without any direction at all. Those reasons probably seem silly to others, just like a reliance on heaven and hell seem silly to me, but I guess they’re my reasons.

Even if we are interested in heaven and hell, a good way to approach books like The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven is with a bit of caution. People may have had legitimate visions or experiences, but that doesn’t mean these experiences are accurate portrayals of heaven or hell. People may also be simply trying to play a market to earn money, which sadly seems to be a bit of the case with this book.

I’m not really sure how to end, but I know that stories like this just leave me irritated. Irritated that Christians are so quick to follow something that is revealed to be a sham. Irritated by those that perpetuate fabrications to make a quick buck. Not to mention irritated by those who will take this and use it as evidence that Christianity (and religion in general) as a whole is a sham. Maybe I’m just irritated because I don’t understand the appeal of these stories, and in this case I’m kind of glad.




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