Heavenly Tourism, Christian Desperation

National Public Radio has recently published an article about Alex Malarkey, a boy who, at the age of six, claimed to die, go to heaven, and come back. The resulting book, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, is being pulled off the shelves after Alex Malarkey admitted he didn’t die and he never went to heaven. Alex has apparently tried to speak out against the book before, but it wasn’t until recently that he got through.

I won’t recap the article any further, but I feel that this topic deserves a fair bit of conversation. First, if you are not familiar, is the concept of “heavenly tourism” books. America loves to read garbage like this. It seems that all of a sudden that everyone has been to heaven and all they want to do is share the experience. Another very popular book of this genre is Heaven Is for Real, which has become so successful and popular that it warranted the creation of a movie.

Each and every time I see one of these books on the shelves in stores I can’t help but automatically reject it. I can’t help it. Too many times stories have appeared in which Christians conjure false proof to support their belief. We’re talking about children, aged six years or younger, making claims that mimic their parents’ faith quite well. What kid doesn’t want to say the right thing for attention or to make their parents happy? Relying on the testimony of a child in matters such as this is probably not the best way to go about proving your point. Even many Christian groups are skeptical about the claims made in books like The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven. Of course, opposition comes from Christians in the form of not liking the interpretations those books make. They are either not biblical enough or don’t confirm the way a certain group interprets their faith. If only they could all be so skeptical about their faith in general, right?

For those not familiar with it, you should definitely check out the story of the “Lost Day” and NASA. You can find the story here and a very well-done (yet lengthy) analysis here. I had a coworker show this to me, and he took it very seriously. I did a simple Google search on the story and when I found it copied and pasted across countless Christian websites, I knew without a doubt it was fake. In fact, I found a letter NASA wrote refuting the story. That was a few years ago: look up the story on Google now, and even the Christian groups are calling it false.

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This is Christian desperation at its finest. For all the claims of “truth” and the efficacy of faith made by Christians they sure as hell go through a lot of effort to validate their beliefs. On one hand they reject the evidence in the contrary, but with the other they jump up and down and claim “Look!  Evidence!  It is true!” This assuages deeply hidden doubts that every person of faith is sure to experience at some point and gives them credibility in the eyes of skeptics. Or so they think. Unfortunately for them, it always turns out to be false. They will fight in favor of the claims for a while but once it is refuted enough, with their fellow Christians even refusing to support it, they will try to let it quietly pass away so they can just move on.

Perfect examples of Christian desperation can be found in stories of discovering Noah’s Ark, people claiming to be prophets, end times revelation, and more all based on phony or very stretched and ill-applied evidence. Remember the Rapture? Of course you do!  So-called prophets have been warning against the impending disaster for decades, urging the hell-bound to shed the shackles of sin and find salvation in Jesus Christ.

The point is that each and every time a story like any of the above emerges it always proves to be false. Whether it is a boy admitting he just wanted attention or scientific analysis making the claim impossible, it all comes out in the end. The industry of “heavenly tourism” books is probably here to stay for quite some time; however, I think that we will see more recanting of this variety as time goes on. We can probably chalk this up to a fad and once the market for this kind of literature no longer proves to be lucrative, you’ll see an incredible decline in tourists going to heaven.

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